I learned that the Fukushima Secured Zone Veterinarians Rescue Team, which is made up of volunteer veterinarians, would be going out to rescue the dogs and cats left in the 20 km off-limits zone for 3 days between July 16th and the 18th. The prefectural government of Fukushima is sanctioning the rescue. This is, without a doubt, great news. However, private animal welfare organizations like us are not going to be allowed to participate in the effort. Considering thousands of animals still left there, as many willing and experienced rescuers should be allowed to go there.
From what we’ve seen, in all aspects, the disaster areas haven’t received enough manpower to solve the enormous problems and damages they were left with. In the area of the animal rescue, we as a long time animal welfare volunteer group would very much like to contribute in Fukushima, and have indicated our will quite clearly many times to the authorities. Rescuing of cats is especially difficult. Unless you know what you are doing, even spotting them can be hard. It is a very frustrating situation, if we are allowed to go with the vets team, I’m sure we can save hundreds.
The animals in the disaster areas are at a very critical point now. Even house cats and larger hardier males are all emaciated, just barely surviving. We have been inundated with calls from grief stricken pet owners who were allowed to go home for a brief visit. So many of those people found their pets dead or missing.
Even though the initial response from the authority was negative with regard to us participating in the 3-day rescue effort, I was hoping the situation would change. But the answer I received today was that we would not be accepted. The only people allowed would be the volunteer vets teams I mentioned earlier. Those veterinarians are brave people who responded to the volunteer recruitment the Nuclear Disaster On-site Countermeasures Headquarters posted for animal rescue in the area. It will be 15 teams with 3 people in each team. The fact they’re going is a very valuable endeavor, but clearly, I must emphasize that more manpower is needed to rescue thousands of dogs and cats.
We cannot get a permission to enter the off-limits areas. We have the know-how and willingness, but we would not be able to help those dogs and cats in great distress. I am tormented by the authority’s decision.
Just returned from Fukushima again
Taking 22 cat cages and a lot of food and water, we went to the disaster site once again. As in all of our past visits, coming across so many lives waiting to be rescued was very difficult. I felt so sad knowing how little we individuals can do.
With the home addresses given by pet owners, we first went looking for cats that their owners asked us to rescue. Then we searched the nearby areas of each home we went, to see if there were any more cats around. We didn’t have to look hard. There were cats everywhere, all extremely thin. As always, they were hard to capture though. All we could do is to set up the cages with food in it and wait. The ones who would venture into the cages were mostly larger males that seemed to still have some energy left. The female cats that bore kittens without food and water were in woefully sad shapes, emaciated with completely flattened tummies.
Not having enough cages, we had to prioritize the cats that looked most at risk to take back to our hospital. Even though they seemed to be mature cats, many seemed to weigh less than 2 kg (4.4 lbs), just skin and bones. After a while, we noticed that the ones we were able to capture seemed to be categorized in two groups. One group was the cats that obviously seemed used to being loved and cared for. They came to us easily, and were affectionate. The other group consisted of the cats still left with enough strength to eat, however awful shapes they were in. Hollow eyes of those cats told terrible ordeals they must have gone through to survive this far.
After a long day of the round-trip travel and rescue mission, it was past midnight by the time we reached our headquarters (TNR Animal Welfare Hospital) in Kanagawa. Yet there were volunteers waiting for us to help settle the cats in the facility. Incredibly, they rushed over after taking care of the animals from our two other affiliated shelters. I feel extremely
fortunate to have help from such dedicated and hardworking people; the people who go to rescue sites with me, staff at our hospital, volunteers in various capacities, and supporters. They are all like angels to me. Only with all these people’s generous help and support, I am able to save precious lives even with my physical disabilities left from a stroke I had earlier in the year.
The cats brought back will be examined for their health conditions first. Then they will be wormed, given vaccines, and spayed or neutered in our hospital. But there is a big problem; our hospital facilities have been completely overwhelmed. We cannot take any more animals. Expanding the custodial facility is a solution, but I just received an estimate that came in at 3,000,000. yen (~$37,500). As it is, we’re on an extremely tight budget in terms of our operational expenses, and we have no reserve. There’s really no source for that much money. It is a very frustrating and disheartening situation.
The condition in the disaster areas was getting even worse, if that was possible. Unfathomable amount of flies were there. It was not just in the off-limits zone within 20km of the nuclear plants, it was the same many kilometers outside of the zone. If we opened the car door even just a little sliver, flies swarmed into the car in a split second. As soon as we left canned food for dogs and cats, flies landed and left eggs instantly. Even dry food got completely covered by flies in a flash. As soon as we placed the food, they looked like buzzing black masses. They were utterly horrible sights. We have no choice but to leave food for the helplessly wandering dogs and cats, but under these circumstances the food in turn could be health hazards to them. It was and will continue to be a horrendous and hazardous situation.
The animals need to be rescued as soon as possible. Shortening their wait even by one day will make a big difference.
Again, I feel terribly helpless.
The great earthquake of March 11th, combined with the following unprecedented scale of tsunamis caused the horrendous nuclear plants accident. Without knowing the magnitude of the damage, thinking they’d be able to return in just a couple of days, the vast majority of the residents evacuated without their family pets. But the situation was much worse than initially thought, and the residents were not allowed to return to their homes for a prolonged period of time. Then on April 22nd, the government ordered the area within 20 km from the Fukushima nuclear plants to be completely off limits, prohibiting all people, including the residents of the area, from entering. As the time has passed, many of the animals left chained or shut inside the homes died of starvation. Unfathomable scenes like remains of cats that show possible cannibalizing of each other have been found inside homes. Those who got away from the confinement are growing weak by the day from starvation.
Presently in Fukushima, in an official capacity, a small team of just a handful of staff from the prefectural government is working to rescue those animals, but only a few are captured at a time. Several thousands are estimated to remain in the area still.
Right now, under the national government’s order, the pet owners who want to get their beloved pets out, or volunteer animal rescue groups, are not allowed to go inside the zone and leave food and water for the animals, let alone rescue them..
The Japanese government is abandoning our partner animals within the 20 km of the Fukushima nuclear plants to die, leaving them as just “things”, with no economic value. Those dogs and cats are shut in the world of certain death after painful starvation as they cannot get out of the death zone on their own. Once a family pet, they die alone waiting for their owners, their families, to come and get them. They are dying as I write this letter, suffering horrible deaths.
We are therefore asking you to write in a petition on the care2 website to urge the Japanese government to allow the pet owners and animal rescue groups to enter the off limits Fukushima nuclear plants vicinity in order to rescue these family pets. Those dogs and cats are destined to die. The situation is extremely urgent. Please write in today to help them. The petition site's URL is as follows.
I talked over the phone with a veterinarian who just returned to Kawasaki from working in Fukushima. He said a Parliament member told him there would be no possibility of officially sanctioned entry into the off limits security areas for the rescue organizations. I was absolutely devastated to hear that.
This is the politician we’ve been working with to advance animal welfare issues with the Japanese government. Since the disaster, we’ve been working closely on the rescue missions for the left behind dogs and cats. Did he come to conclude this is the end of the road for the rescue efforts? That’s just what the government wants us to do, give up. If it were his own family left there, wouldn’t he venture out and try to rescue them? But if they were dogs or cats, he wouldn’t bother. It is the same as saying the lives of the dogs and cats are less worthy. They are still the precious lives.
After hearing this horrible news, I contacted the politician and urged him to please be the voice of the animals who couldn’t speak, who were relegated to neglect and abandonment. We need his help to turn the dire situation around, to prompt the Japanese government to do the responsible things they are supposed to do.
After the disaster, Fukushima prefectural government and the local veterinarian association cooperated and formed an animal rescue department for the prefecture. However, the operation is shockingly small. There are only five people in the department; one official and four veterinarians serving the entire prefecture. I have visited their office to learn their operation. The phone’s ringing off the hook from the displaced residents inquiring, requesting protection of their pets, filing complaints, and so on.
The staff has been working tirelessly everyday, late into nights and even through weekends. Their days are spent taking care of the rescued animals in their facility, finding their owners, and going out to the off limits areas to leave food and water, as well as rescuing the animals left out there, in addition to answering the phone when they can, as there are no designated office staffs. I must repeat, all of this is done by the five people. The day of my visit, I was fortunate to meet one of the veterinarians who returned to the office from a feed and rescue mission. He was gaunt from prolonged overwork and exhaustion, but was eager to tell me what they did. But the cold fact is, no matter how dedicated and hard working they are, five people alone cannot possibly save all the animals left in Fukushima. This grossly inadequate situation must be solved urgently by the national government.
Just returned from Fukushima
There are many details of our activities to report, but I must talk about the animals left behind in the off limits security zone because of the radiation hazard. Before the absolute no entrance rule was set, some pet owners (who have been living in evacuation centers and temporary housing where pets were not allowed) and volunteers were sneaking in and leaving food for the animals, but it’s been over 2 months since the absolute rule has been imposed for some areas. There can’t be any more food and water left for them in those areas. Already countless animals must have died and yet many more are suffering the slow and painful deaths by starvation. Another hard fact is, from what we understand by talking to the residents, most of those dogs and cats are not spayed or neutered. Consequently, many animals would become pregnant. Starved, dehydrated, and pregnant, the agony those mother dogs and cats must go through is heartbreaking.
With regard to dogs, even though they are generally easier to capture than cats, there are some that won’t let you get near them. For those, we need crate type catching devices. In Okuma-cho, one of the off limits areas, we saw a spot many dogs were gathering yesterday. For some reason they were all Shiba inus, about twenty of them. We really must hurry to capture them. Left alone, there will be even more painful deaths, of the mother dogs and their puppies.
The situation is absolutely dire now, but the Japanese government is hardly doing anything. There is an enormous number of animals waiting helplessly. By the way things are going, I’m afraid those poor dogs and cats will be long dead before anything is done. So many cats got loose, at this point they are not easily visible even if you try hard to find them. Under these circumstances, at the absolute minimum, we must put adequate food and water out now.
There are few people who are risking their lives to feed their pets while being displaced, but soon even that little bit of care will become impossible to give. Security for the off limits areas is becoming tighter for one thing, but the bigger problem is the quickly passing time. Once the winter and snow arrive, just reaching the areas will become prohibitive. The winter in the northeast is very inhospitable with freezing temperature and deep snow; it will certainly wipe out what’s left of the starving and weakened dogs and cats. We must think about how to get them out now, as the winter comes early, quickly, and harshly in the cold country.
We need your help! Your donation to Animal Rescue Fund allows us to keep doing anything that we possibly can to help the abandoned animals in the no-entry evacuation zone. We would greatly appreciate any help that you can give us. Animal Rescue Fund does not have its own no-kill animal shelter. Because of this, we are bringing the animals that we rescued to a pet hotel in Fukushima Prefecture for a temporary stay; we are transporting the animals one by one to our TNR Japan Animal Welfare Hospital. We just don’t have enough room in our hospital to allow us to bring all of the rescued animals down here at once.
Bank Name : Bank of Yokohama , Oshima Branch (Code 821)
Account No : Ordinary Account 1189874
Account Name : Inunekokyusainowa
Heading to Fukushima to catch and rescue the abandoned animals
With 20 cat crates and a ton of dog and cat food as usual, we’re going to Fukushima today. The main purpose is to catch and rescue the cats, and also to leave food for the dogs and cats still left there. Since we’ve put in a lot of efforts into rescuing dogs in the past, we’re focusing on the cats this time. They are elusive and so hard to catch, and it’s agonizing knowing their fate if we are not able to rescue them out of the cordoned off areas.
We’d like to give our heartfelt thanks to those who sent us goods and supplies; crates, food, treats, milk for puppies and kittens, cat litter, flea meds, and many more items. They are extremely important to our rescue efforts.
There already are many cats being cared for in a commercial pet care facility in Fukushima that we rescued at the request of their displaced owners. The owners said they were afraid many cats became pregnant while they were loose, since most were not spayed or neutered.
We must hurry…but there are so many urgent matters to take care of. Frankly I’m at a loss to determine what to take on first. As an emergency measure, we’re discussing a possibility of sending a team of veterinarians to Fukushima for spay and neuter surgeries, and for vaccinations including rabies and heart worms.
Even though we have caught and rescued many cats so far, there are still so many out there. Once the strict “no entrance” rule (due to the radiation danger) was imposed, the cats still left in the area would perish from starvation. Knowing this as the sure and horrific scenario, I was determined to go back there to rescue as many cats as I could as long as I am physically able to do so.